Lada Bulakh (“Sluga Narodu”): “The responsibility of a person to another person for infecting with any disease should exist, but it should not exist solely for HIV infection»

For your attention is an exclusive interview by UHHRU with Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 9th convocation from “Sluga Narodu” Party Lada Bulakh, who is Chairman of the Sub-committee on Epidemic Safety, Combating HIV/AIDS and Socially Dangerous Diseases in the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Public Health. We want to thank to the Chairman of the Board of BO “Positive Women” Elena Stryzhak for assistance in organization of the interview.

You’ve been a public health activist for a long time. In this regard, how do you feel as a Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine? Does previous experience help you in a new field?

I don’t feel radically different now because I used to work for a non-governmental service organization and I did much the same thing – it was advocating for the rights of patients. Now I work in the same sphere (health care), but I have more opportunities to advocate for useful initiatives that have  been formed long ago and should receive their registration as legislative initiatives.

Lada Bulakh

What goals do you set for yourself, working in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in the context of reforming the current legislation, in particular in the fight against HIV/AIDS epidemic?

I have been working as MP for 3 months. During this time, we (together with the team) are developing a number of legislative initiatives, that will be submitted to the Committee on Public Health.  Among the priorities of my work is to seek the adoption of relevant draft laws by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

The first thing I’m working on now is a new draft law on Public Health. Today, we are making a new draft law from one existing and two other draft laws, which will regulate all public health (prevention, sanitary and epidemiological surveillance and blood bank) together with the sphere of sanitary and epidemic well-being and infectious diseases.

The next law will be on blood and its components donation. It will not  be just an improvement of the previous law – it will be a completely new law that will regulate the National System of Donation, blood quality and directly the network of blood centers in Ukraine.

The next draft law – on amendment of some legislation to ensure a person’s fundamental right to life. This is the decriminalization of medical cannabis. I am not the author of this draft law, however I support this initiative, as well as many MPs from the fraction. I hope that it will be adopted next year.

The next topic is amending the existing law on AIDS. We will amend it, but my opinion is that we should remove the word AIDS from the name of the Law, because it is one hundred percent stigma for patients. Now it has been decided that we will wait until the adoption of a large law on Public Health and then it will be possible to develop on the basis of this law the same general law on infectious diseases, which will include the fight against AIDS, as one of the parts. But in the meantime, we will make changes to the current law on AIDS.

Also, we worked on a draft law on the introduction of a 10-year Strategy to overcome 3 infections: HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis B/C. As a result of the Committee’s effective communication with the Ministry of Health, the relevant strategy has already been approved by the Government. This, in my opinion, is a very big step forward.

What will you consider to be the main success in your activity?

All directions are important to me. But if we talk about one dream, I want patients in health care facilities to have the opportunity to simultaneously access social services. Today, these are two universes that do not intersect. The social sphere is one story, and the medical sphere is quite different one. I want to implement in Ukraine the experience that I have seen in Europe and in America, where in all healthcare institutions there is an opportunity to receive psychological and practical assistance from social workers.

How do you assess the current situation with the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine?

The dynamics is positive. The number of new cases is decreasing, the mortality rate is decreasing – these are the main indicators that demonstrate positive dynamics in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Separately, what invigorates me – the number of cases of AIDS among people under 25 years is negligible. This shows that young people value themselves, protect themselves, and are tested. The number of people who use drugs, in particular by injection, has significantly decreased. Since 2013, sexual heterosexual transmission of HIV has prevailed in Ukraine. If we talk about the traditional portrait of an HIV-positive person in Ukraine, it is a man older than 40 years. So, in my opinion, the situation is improving.

What worries me is the problem of keeping people in treatment programs. A large proportion of patients (somewhat about one third) who have started taking ART (antiretroviral therapy), interrupt it.

Ukraine today is among the countries in which the status of HIV-positive people is criminalized at the legislative level. Svetlana Moroz, Chairman of the Board of Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network, believes that the criminalization of HIV creates a false illusion of the effectiveness of state bodies and stigmatizes HIV+ people. Do you agree with this opinion?

Undoubtedly. The responsibility of a person to another person for infecting with any disease should exist, but it should not exist solely for HIV infection.

Are you ready to support the public discussion on decriminalization of medical cannabis consumption and decriminalization of sex work as a member of Parliament?

Of course, the discussion is a very important tool for developing joint solutions, because even among the supporters of the decriminalization of the sex work today there is no common position on the legal settlement of problems. This discussion is very important.

Prepared by Sergey Myasoedov (UHHRU)

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union implements the project “Development of the legal network for protection of the people living with HIV/AIDS, representatives of key PLHIV communities and persons ill with TB” with the financial support of the Charitable organization “All-Ukrainian Network of the People Living with HIV/AIDS” in the framework of implementation of the project “Releasing the Burden of TB and HIV infection through creation of the open access to timely and quality diagnostics and treatment of the TB and its resistant forms, expanding evidence based prevention, diagnostic and treatment of HIV infection, and creation of stable and sustainable health protection systems”, which is implemented with the financial support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.


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